May 21, 2024 The Brinkworth––Metzger Family


Identifying an ‘orphaned’ vintage photo

Finding vintage photos in antiques shops or having them donated or loaned to the History & Art Center is always an exciting moment. Even more exciting is when the people and places in the photos are identified.

This photo is in my private collection; it depicts four women and three children sitting on a porch; a portrait of another woman sits on an empty chair, indicating most likely that that woman had recently died.

Written in modern handwriting in pen is the name “Metzgers” and the address, 1039 West Main Street. I purchased this photo along with others, including two photos of a boy named Claude Nelson Metzger – one taken for his birth announcement by renowned Madison photographer Herbert M. Flora and another taken as a toddler by George L. Spaulding, also a well-known Madison photographer, around the turn of the 20th century. 

According to the Flora photo, Claude was born 27 November 1906. 

Yet another Flora portrait shows Claude as a baby being held by a woman identified as Lulu Metzger. Based on this portrait, it is clear Lulu is seated on the right in front of a woman in a white blouse and behind a young boy seated on the top step of the porch.

Photographs are more than images of loved ones or places. Each holds a cornucopia of clues, even if unidentified. Clothing, hairstyles, jewelry—even the material to which the photo is attached can provide information that can help pinpoint the date a photo was taken. Photographer and studio names can be traced using city directories to determine the years they were in business. 

With the address on the back of the main photo, a deed search can lead to more information at the county courthouse. If you are interested in documenting the history of a house you own, or admire, the county clerk’s office in courthouse is always your first place to start a deed search. This will tell you who owned the house first, and who bought and sold it up to the present day.

Lulu Frances Brinkworth Metzger

But armed with names, most of the information needed could be found in the U.S. census. Searching on, I found that Lulu Frances (1867-1944) was the daughter of English-born William Brinkworth and his second wife, Mary Jane Alford Lathrop, of Hanover, Indiana. (It also was Mary Jane’s second marriage; both William and Mary Jane had children from previous marriages.) 

At, I found Lulu Frances (1867-1944) was the daughter of English-born William Brinkworth and his second wife, Mary Jane Alford Lathrop, of Hanover, Indiana. Both William and Mary Jane also had children from previous marriages. 

In 1910, Lulu and her husband, Peter Metzger (1859-1946) are living at the same address provided on the back of the feature photo; Claude is listed as their adopted son, 3 years old, born in Ohio. The birthplaces of his parents were unknown by the person who answered questions for the census taker. This was an important piece of information, because while I was researching, I though perhaps Lula and Peter had adopted the child of a sibling or other relative – a common occurrence in the case of an untimely death. Of course, accuracy in any census depends on the knowledge of the person interviewed by the census-taker, and the census-taker’s diligence in getting the information right.

So, the adoption could have been through an agency or someone else unrelated to the Metzgers.

Lulu married Peter on 10 November 1886. The 1910 census indicates Lulu had never given birth, which may be the reason the couple decided to adopt Claude. Peter earned a living as a grocer in Madison. His son, Claude, followed the same career path.

Claude married Thelma Patricia Hill in 1926. Born in 1909, she was the daughter of Peter William and Lillian Barbara (Schilling) Hill in Sharpsville, Tipton County, Indiana. They had one daughter, Roseann, born 20 March 1928. Sadly, one year after her birth, in 1929, Claude died of Bright’s Disease, which is a disease of the kidney. He is buried in Springdale Cemetery. 

The 1930 census shows that Thelma moved from Madison to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where her parents were living. Her father was working as a carpenter for the University of Michigan. She apparently returned to Madison, where, in 1956, she married a local man, Robert Jacob Jones. Thelma died in 1974; Robert died at age 94 in 1995. They, too, are buried in Springdale Cemetery.

Roseanne married James Leinenweber of Madison, who died in 2010. They had three children: Linda, Mark and Mike, all of Madison. According to her obituary published in the Madison Courier in January 2012, she worked for Economy Cleaners, Hammack’s Grocery, Little People’s Boutique and Rogers Drug Store. 

While I have not identified the other women and children in the photo, Claude, I believe, is the little boy next to the boy in the middle. Based on his age, the photo photo was taken around 1910; the clothing and hairstyles back this up. The deceased may be Mary Jane, who died in 1895, and the other women could be Lula’s sisters. There are conflicting records regarding Lulu’s family that would require a lot more analysis to sort out. 

Family history research, clearly, is never finished.

 (This piece was first published by the author at Twisted Roots Research.)

Phyllis Codling McLaughlin

Phyllis Codling McLaughlin


Jefferson County Historical Society

Phyllis Codling McLaughlin is a journalist and author of “Images of America: Carroll County” and “Trimble County,” featuring historic photos of the Kentucky counties. Specializing in genetic genealogy, she got the “bug” in 1991 researching a great-grandfather who fought in the Civil War. She and husband, Andrew “Patter” McLaughlin, a Madison native, live in Milton with a menagerie of pets.

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